5 Books On the Necessity of Police Reform

It has been over four months, and the police who murdered Breonna Taylor have not been arrested yet. Coverage of the protests for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others has died down, and talks of police reform and police brutality seem to be losing steam. But that does not mean the discourse is any less necessary to have, or any less important.

Police brutality is still a major issue in the United States, as well as worldwide, and we can’t let the notion of police reform become a fad that ebbs and flows like so many other trends, depending on how much media coverage and visibility police brutality gets. It’s not goat yoga. It’s a systemic disease that is disproportionately killing Black people and other people of color.

If you’d like to learn more about what we mean when we talk about police brutality, and what police reform could look like in order to ensure that this profession is doing what it purports itself to do (protect and serve), then pick up one of these books written by former cops, attorneys, and activists. They examine what law enforcement in the United States looks like now, the racism that is rampant among its ranks, and how it should change for the better to both properly train officers and protect every person in this country, and not just some of them.

The Black and the Blue by Matthew Horace

Matthew Horace had a 28-year career with law enforcement, starting as a beat cop and working his way up to federal law enforcement executive. As a Black man, he also had a gun pulled on him by a fellow white officer, the first of many incidents that reminded him of the racism alive and well within American police departments. This book is a combination of Matthew’s lived experience, observations, research, and interviews with other police and government officials to examine police tactics and systems that perpetuate racist policing, high incarceration rates, and the kind of violence that’s playing out all across the country.

Policing the Black Man by Angela J. Davis

This collection of essays explores the deep-seated nature of racism within the criminal justice system, racial profiling, implicit bias and the role it plays, and many other symptoms of the racism disease within our justice system. Each stage of the criminal process, from arrest to sentencing, is closely examined to expose its devastating impact on Black men and boys, and each essay is written by criminal justice experts and legal scholars from all over the country.

when they see usInvisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color by Andrea Ritchie

Andrea Ritchie is a police misconduct attorney determined to shine a light on the racial profiling, immigrant enforcement, and police brutality that Black women, First Nations women, trans women of color, Latinx women, and other women of color experience at the hands of law enforcement, tracing its roots back to colonization and bringing it to the present.

To Protect and Serve: How to Fix America’s Police by Norm Stamper

Norm Stamper is a retired San Diego assistant police chief and former Seattle police chief who knows a thing or two about how officers are trained and how they operate. Stamper confronts head-on the racism that is both systemic and present on an individual level in law enforcement, highlights the conditions that brought us to where we are today, and poses a new model to policing: the community-based police department. After all, he states, police belong to the people in our society; not the other way around.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States by Maya Schenwar

Editor Maya Schenwar has collected a number of essays and reports that expose the police violence against Black, brown, indigenous, and other marginalized communities, as well people with mental illness or disabilities. It also explores reports and incidents of police corruption throughout the country, and presents eye-opening statistics that can help put this long-standing problem into perspective.

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